Fiction - Commercial - Corporate - Animation - Documentary

Monty Python And The Holy Grail – 1975

Silliness is a science, and by that standard, Monty Python deserve a Nobel prize. Their epic Life Of Brian is arguably a better film, but you have to admire how they made every penny count on their first feature, using coconuts (and subtitles and farm animals and a number of other things) in a way nobody else could have imagined.

Contempt – 1963

It’s Independence Day here, so we’ll cheat a bit with a film by a (kinda) Swiss filmmaker, though shot in Italy with French funds, cast and crew. We had to shoehorn Godard in here somewhere and his attempt at a « conventional » widescreen drama is probably his cruelest, most subversive film, both about relationships and – this being Godard – about film itself. It also makes you wish Fritz Lang had spent more time in front of the camera, rather than just behind it.

Calamari Wrestler – 2004

We love octopi, especially when they’re involved in pro wrestling. Since this kind of thing does not occur very often, to say the least, a film celebrating it can be forgiven anything. Not that Calamari Wrestler has any forgiveness to ask for, post-modern miracle that it is: you could write a million songs about how endlessly awesome it is and… wait, what date is today again?

Harold and Maud – 1971

We’re still not sure whether there’s a better love story out there, but there certainly isn’t a stranger one. This one is just more proof that the 70s might be the ultimate decade for film: even if you could make something like this today, where would you find a more perfect cast or tone? And even if you could, you still couldn’t match Cat Stevens’ music.

Alien – 1979

This month we just have a soft spot for science fiction in general, and for 1979 more specifically. This futuristic take on the Ten Little indians could hardly be simpler on paper, but it’s a case study in what magic can happen when you go that extra little mile, and involve real talent. Ridley Scott’s claustrophobic hell has lost none of its edge, the ship is still a benchmark in design (thank you Moebius and Chris Foss) but the monster, a sexually charged nightmare courtesy of H.R. Giger, is the real dark gem here. We can think of few films that have created such trauma and as huge a legacy, and even fewer that have aged so well. Watch this one loud, on a huge screen and late at night, if you dare.

Stalker – 1979

Nobody loves poetry like a Russian, goes the saying. Based on legendary director Andrei Tarkovsky’s output alone that could well be true. He explored revolutionary ideas about film structure and time, and though his better-known and more highly regarded Ivan Rublev is his official attempt at an epic, this here is his real magnum opus. It may try to pass itself off as a little genre film, but it questions everything that makes us human, and is all the more haunting for the terrible ordeal that was its wasteland-bound production. Be patient with it and you will be hugely rewarded.

City of Lost Children – 1995

It’s Ron Perlman, the « Lon Chaney of the 21st Century » (sayeth Guillermo Del Toro himself!), it’s the fluorescent landscapes, Darius Khondji’s delirious wide-angle photography, the many clones of Dominic Pinon and that music. It’s the sense that here’s a totally new, unique and original world of endless possibility. It’s The City of Lost Children, the greatest live action fairy tale ever committed to film, bar none!

Simon of the Desert – 1965

Surrealist but gritty. Epic yet intimate. Rich but short. Bunuel’s wonderful tale of an ascetic fanatic stranded atop a pillar in the desert and tormented by the forces of Evil (Silvia Pinal!) is everything a film should be, which, with a runtime of just under 45 minutes, is no small accomplishment. Masterpiece? Yessir!

Europa – 1991

Before Lars von Trier became the king of handheld human decadence, he was a master of black comedy, and one with a staggering – if cheeky and in-your-face – technical proficiency. You can’t get more visually convoluted than Europa: multiple layers of front and back-projection, mixing color and black and white… For all that though, it’s a dizzying labyrinth of a story, moody as hell, and anchored by phenomenal supporting turns from Eddie Constantine and Ernst-Hugo Järegård. Plus, did we already mention it was really funny?